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NRF: Back-To-School Spending Could Hit Record Levels

Consumers heading to their favorite stores to shop for their back-to-school/college needs are expected to increase their spending from 2016, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual consumer survey.

The study conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics revealed that total spending could hit $83.6 billion, an increase of 10% over 2016.

“Families are now in a state of mind where they feel a lot more confident about the economy,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and CEO. “With stronger employment levels and a continued increase in wages, consumers are spending more and we are optimistic that they will continue to do so throughout the rest of the year.”

Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $687.72 each, for a total of $29.5 billion, an 8% increase from last year’s $27.3 billion. According to the survey, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend $10.2 billion on clothing, $8.8 billion on electronics such as computers or calculators, $5.6 billion on shoes and $4.9 billion on school supplies such as notebooks, folders, pencils, backpacks and lunchboxes.

When it comes to where parents will buy, they are shopping across a variety of retailers: 57% will shop at department stores, 54% at discount stores, 46% each at clothing stores and online, and 36% at office supply stores. For those shopping online, 91% plan to take advantage of free shipping and 54% will buy online and pick up in-store.

College students and their families plan to spend an average of $969.88, up from last year’s $888.71. Total spending is expected to be $54.1 billion, up from $48.5 billion last year and surpassing 2012’s record of $53.5 billion. The increase in spending is driven, in part, to growing college enrollment. 

The survey found college consumers plan to spend $12.8 billion on electronics, $8 billion on clothing, $7.5 billion on snacks and other food items, $5.9 billion on dorm/apartment furnishings, $4.5 billion on shoes, $4.5 billion on personal care items, $3.9 billion on school supplies, $3.9 billion on gift cards and $3.2 billion on branded collegiate gear. Households plan to spend an average of $229.20 on electronics, $142.90 on clothing, $134.20 on food, $105.58 on dorm/apartment furnishings, $81.38 on shoes, $81 on personal care items, $70.08 on school supplies, $68.99 on gift cards and $56.57 on branded gear.

When it comes to where to shop, 44% of college consumers will go online, 40% to discount stores, 39% to department stores, 34% to college bookstores and 29% to office supply stores.

The survey of 7,226 consumers asked about both back-to-school and back-to-college plans and was conducted June 30 to July 5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.